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Cal State University faculty strike to protest salary dispute

The staffers say spending decisions made by officials threaten the quality of education at the university's 23 campuses.

November 18, 2011|By Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times
  • Rosa Brooks-Kamper watches the picket line that includes her mother, Joanna Brooks, a Cal State San Diego faculty member, during a faculty protest at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Rosa Brooks-Kamper watches the picket line that includes her mother, Joanna… (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles…)

Hundreds of California State University faculty members stayed out of class Thursday to protest a salary dispute and spending decisions that they say threaten the quality of education at the university's 23 campuses.

The California Faculty Assn., which represents 23,000 professors, lecturers, librarians and others, authorized the one-day strike at Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State East Bay but said the actions could spread to other campuses if Chancellor Charles B. Reed refuses their compromise proposals. It is the first strike since the union was formed in 1983.

Reed is withholding pay raises that were negotiated for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, arguing that the system can't afford the increases because of state funding cuts. Cal State and the University of California each lost $650 million in funding this school year and are likely to lose another $100 million each midyear because of declining revenue. A state-appointed panel recommended that a portion of the raises be paid.

At the Dominguez Hills campus in Carson, several hundred faculty and students hoisted signs near the main entrance, whistling and chanting, "Hey, hey, ho ho, Chancellor Reed has got to go."

Many wore red T-shirts that read, "I don't want to strike but I will." One demonstrator was dressed as a giant puppet of the chancellor, with each hand holding fistfuls of dollars. Passing cars honked in support, as a New Orleans-style jazz band played.

Cal State officials increased security on both campuses affected by the strike, a day after a Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach was disrupted by protesters opposing a decision to boost tuition by 9% next fall.

At the East Bay campus in Hayward, strikers conducted a flash mob on a major street near the campus, singing "I Will Survive." Dozens of high school students from Inglewood, who were in the Bay Area on a college tour, joined the demonstration, said Brian Ferguson, a faculty association spokesman who was on the campus for the strike.

California Faculty Assn. President Lillian Taiz, a Cal State L.A. history professor, addressed a noon rally in Carson, saying "Students, faculty and staff are not the chancellor's ATM machine."

She was joined by several lawmakers, labor leaders and clergy. One participant, Pamm Fair, addressed the strikers, saying she represented parents who are increasingly fed up with tuition hikes and reduced course offerings.

"I have a message for Chancellor Reed and all the legislators: This is taxation without representation," said Fair, whose son David is a business major at Dominguez Hills. "I'm sick of writing checks when students have larger classes and faculty are being low-balled."

The campus appeared fairly empty and officials said most faculty told students they were canceling classes. Kasie Areeprachapirom attended morning chemistry and kinesiology classes that were about half full, but his anthropology class was canceled. He said he supported the strike.

"They aren't getting paid and are doing more work," Areeprachapirom, 18, said, of his instructors. "We have to pay more for less education. I think it's pretty cool they're standing up for us."

But Tito Mejia said the strike shortchanged many students who wanted to study.

"We paid for a full semester, and I feel like getting my money back, at least for some units," said Mejia, 23, whose finance class was canceled. "When I came in, they said, 'Don't go to class,' but they're not going to give me my diploma."

Physics professor Alice Newman said she fully supported the goals of the strike but planned to conduct individual sessions with students in two classes because she didn't expect many to attend.

"Many are pre-med students — it's really competitive, and they can't afford to lose a day," Newman said. "It's most important that their education not be interrupted."

carla.rivera@latimes.com

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